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NMSU Alumni Association honors Fall 2009 Outstanding Graduates

For their outstanding academic performance, leadership, scholarship and participation in university and community activities, the New Mexico State University Alumni Association will honor the Outstanding Seniors for Fall 2009.


An outstanding senior was chosen from each of NMSU's academic colleges, as well as an international student and one graduate student. A reception will be held to honor the seniors at noon on Dec. 11 in the Corbett Center Student Union West Ballroom.

The College of Agricultural, Consumer and Environmental Sciences will honor Morgan R. Nelson of Las Cruces, who will receive a bachelor's degree in agricultural economics and agricultural business and a bachelor's degree of business administration economics. Nelson was the student ambassador for the college and was an advisory board member for the Aggies Go Global Task Force. He also served as a congressional intern for Sen. Pete Domenici in 2008. Nelson is an exemplary student who is active in college and his community while maintaining a 3.9 GPA. He seeks leadership roles and is admired by his peers. He has helped recruit students to the university and college.

The College of Arts and Sciences will honor Sarah Marie Tafoya of Albuquerque, a journalism and mass communications major with a Spanish minor. Tafoya earned a 3.94 GPA, is a Crimson Scholar and is on the dean's list. She has received the New Mexico Scholars scholarship, has volunteered with the Albuquerque Toy Run and the Ronald McDonald House Dinners and works with mentally challenged students. She currently works in production and broadcasting at News 22 and plans to pursue a career as an anchor or reporter, providing relevant stories related to community issues, interests and concerns.

The College of Business will honor Florence Babcock of Las Cruces, a finance, economics and international business major with a minor in Spanish. Babcock has earned a 3.77 GPA, is a Crimson Scholar and is on the dean's list. She has received the General Motors Scholarship, has been president of the NMSU Finance Club and was elected for Best Foreign Student in Spain while she was studying abroad. She has coordinated fundraising activities for multiple charities including La Casa, a family emergency shelter, and El Caldito, a soup kitchen. She also read books and spoke Spanish to the children and helped clean the streets in downtown Las Cruces.

The College of Education will honor Katie Hooper of Carlsbad, a kinesiology major with a minor in human biology. Hooper earned a 3.8 GPA, is a Crimson Scholar and is on the dean's list. She is on the NMSU rodeo team and is a member of the National Intercollegiate Rodeo Association. She has held positions as a lab teaching assistant at NMSU, participated in numerous activities including painting Aggie Memorial Stadium and the Breast Cancer Awareness Walk. Hooper has been very active with the NMSU rodeo team assisting with Coats for Kids, Kookies for Kids, Special Kids Rodeo and roadside and arena cleanup. Hooper is applying to physician assistant schools and possibly medical schools, which are both very rigorous and demanding programs.

The College of Engineering will honor Sandra Chavez of Placitas, a civil engineering major. Chavez earned 3.52 GPA and has served as both treasurer and secretary for the American Society of Civil Engineers' student chapter at NMSU. She is a member of the Tau Beta Pi Engineering Honor Society, the Chi Epsilon Civil Engineering Honor Society, is captain of the Steel Bridge and a member of the Concrete Canoe team at NMSU. In addition to her excellent performance in academics and her commitment to professional service, she has shown herself to be a concerned and giving citizen by serving as an active volunteer in Habitat for Humanity, New Mexico Roadrunner Food Bank and the Aggie Recycling Center. She can also weld and is learning to play the piano.

The College of Extended Learning will honor Jay Anthony Zoccoli Las Cruces, who will receive bachelor of applied studies degree and a minor in hotel, restaurant and tourism management. Zoccoli earned 3.47 GPA, has received the Wolslager Foundation Scholarship and has been on the dean's honor role. He serves as vice president of the College of Extending Learning College Council, owns and operates Collectors World, a nostalgia and memorabilia shop in Las Cruces, and is the director and founder of "We've Only Just Begun," a new church and community resource center in Las Cruces. Zoccoli plans to continue his street ministry and community work, his education and may eventually pursue becoming a teacher.

The College of Health and Social Services will honor Carole A. Carson of Louisville, Ky., a nursing major. Carson earned a 3.62 GPA and is a member of the NMSU Kinesiology Club. She has volunteered for community service with programs at MountainView Regional Medical Center such as the Young at Heart Group, the Bone Boosters Osteoporosis Support Group, the Diabetes Group and the Women's Resource Center. Before attending NMSU, Carson graduated from University of Louisville with a bachelor of science in exercise science and a master of science in exercise physiology. Carson is a registered clinical exercise physiologist and a certified strength and conditioning specialist. She is currently employed by the Rehabilitation Hospital of Southern New Mexico as a clinical liaison. She is also a member of the Las Cruces chapter of Women's Future Business Leaders of America.

The International and Border Programs will honor Jingzi Ji of Cixi Zharjiang, China. Ji will earn a bachelor in business administration, majoring in finance with a 3.93 GPA. He is a Crimson Scholar and was a member of the Finance Club in Sichuan University in China, where Ji also held a teaching assistant position. Ji has also participated in internships with the Bank of Ningbo in Zhejiang, the Industrial and Commercial Bank of China in Zhejiang and the Business Department of MCC Mining Pty Ltd. in Beijing, China.

The American Indian Program will honor Michael Ray, an economics major. Ray has been an active participant and mentor in the American Indian Program's Peer Mentor Program and an assistant in the Future American Indian Scholars summer program. He has served as president of the Native American Business Student Association, vice president of the United Native American Organization and student ambassador for the American Indian Program. He is also a member of the Delta Sigma Pi business fraternity.

The Graduate School will honor Peter Karl Jonason of Pensacola, Fla., who will receive a Ph.D. in experimental social psychology. Jonason has earned a 3.71 GPA, and he has received the Mike Watts Outstanding Leadership Graduate Fellowship and the Merit-Based Enhancement Fellowship of the NMSU Graduate School. He has completed his dissertation, which is titled "The Unmeasured Variable in Mating Psychology: Financial Security." He has published 17 peer reviewed articles in some of the top psychology journals in the U.S. and Europe, including Evolutionary Psychology, the Journal of Social Psychology and the European Journal of Psychology. His interests in sex research and personality traits has led to several media interviews, including with ABC News, the New Scientist, Cosmopolitan, Shape and the Las Cruces Sun News. He currently serves as a visiting assistant professor of psychology at the University of West Florida.

For more information contact the NMSU Alumni Association at (575) 646-3616.